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Suffolk Libraries launches Phone a Friend service

An elderly woman smiling and chatting on her landline

Suffolk Libraries has launched a new service to reach out to older or isolated library customers.

The new ‘Phone a Friend’ service will provide regular phone calls to anyone who would benefit from a friendly chat and someone to talk to.

Older people have probably been missing libraries the most as the regular social interaction with staff and other people in libraries has been found to make a real difference in tackling isolation. Those who aren’t online will have also found lockdown particularly difficult.

The Phone a Friend service is as simple as calling someone for a friendly chat on a regular basis to check they’re ok and to listen to them.

‘Phone a Friend’ builds on the successful ‘Suffolk Lifeline’ service that Suffolk Libraries launched during the first lockdown. This was delivered by library staff who called library customers to check on them and have a chat, focussing on older people and people who they know may be particularly lonely or vulnerable.

Independent research recently carried out into Suffolk Libraries Lifeline service found that nearly 7,000 calls were made to 3,700 people during April to July 2020. The research found that the service had some very positive outcomes with those called feeling less lonely or isolated. As these calls were being made by a member of staff who they knew well, it helped to make them feel connected to the library and provided some semblance of normality.

For some this was the only contact they would have during the day and many reported that it made a big difference in getting them through lockdown. The launch of Phone a Friend means that Suffolk Libraries can continue to be able to provide a much-needed telephone befriending service to lonely and more isolated people even when staff return to working in libraries.

Diane Moore, Suffolk Libraries Volunteer Engagement Manager said:

“In these difficult times, we’re working to find ways to reach out to people. We know these calls made a difference to people during the previous lockdown and we hope that launching Phone a Friend will help us to offer the service to more people and to ensure we can continue to make these calls even after libraries reopen. We have already recruited volunteers so we’re ready to start offering calls to those who would benefit.”

Charlotte Clark, Southwold Library Manager was one of those making Lifeline calls last year and knows how valued they were:

“The Suffolk Lifeline calls have been a pleasure and it’s lovely to keep in touch with the customers and feel you have made a difference to them. Some are just pleased that we are thinking of them, some have welcomed the chance to talk to a friendly voice and some have specific concerns and questions we can answer.”

Suffolk Libraries already has volunteers ready to make Phone a Friend calls. If you or someone you know would appreciate a regular call please email phoneafriend@suffolklibraries.co.uk for details.

DBS checks and references are carried out on all Suffolk Libraries volunteers.